Members of the Georgia Southern University Women’s Swimming and Diving Team have penned an apology and a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
A number of college swimmers and programs have issued statements in the wake of ongoing national and global protests for social justice following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis just over a month ago.
The statement from the Georgia Southern athletes is of particular note after an incident 2 years ago where a member of the program’s women’s swimming & diving team sent a text message with a racial slur to her future roommate, who is Black.
The text message, sent by then-rising senior Courtney Schaefer, contained the N-word. Schaefer said that the text was about her future roommate, but was meant for someone else, and that she meant to use the word “triggerish,” but that her phone auto-corrected the word. Screenshots of the text messages were posted on Twitter.
At the time, the story made national news and resulted in a “sit-in” at the team’s first meet of the 2018-2019 season, with many students saying that they believed Schaefer should have been removed from the team.
“We recognize that what this teammate said was incredibly hurtful and wrong,” the statement says. “As a group, we are especially ashamed and apologetic of the actions our University failed to take regarding this issue. Moving forward, we resolve to fight against injustice during current and future times to ensure a situation like this never occurs again. Such actions will never again be tolerated within our program; racism will never again be tolerated within our program. We will not condone any singular form of racism or hate speech within our team and within our community.”
The lead on the statement was taken by Georgia Southern’s current rising-senior class, who were sophomores at the time. While those swimmers were not allowed by the athletics department to speak to SwimSwam about the letter, designated representatives from the class that recently exhausted their eligibility did expound upon the statement.
“The members of our team all feel strongly about this incident and the support of diversity and decided it was time to take matters into our own hands,” Elizabeth Chemey said. “Our goal is to set the standard for an inclusive culture on our team and show that as members of this team we are sorry for what happened and want to do better within our program and within the community.”
Chemey says that the letter, which is signed “The Georgia Southern University Women’s Swimming and Diving Team,” represents the voice of “the entire team, past and present.”
“With the current news surrounding police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, the senior class decided that enough was enough,” Chemey said. “It became clear that if we wanted changes to be made, we had to be the ones to advocate for them, particularly because of the inaction by our university and athletic department. We are embarrassed to have stayed silent about this issue for this long and felt that as Seniors it is our responsibility to incite change within our program and department. We had no control over what happened with our former teammate during the incident, so we want to push for changes to be made that will not allow anything like this to occur again. Collectively, the Senior Class came together to write the statement with the support of the rest of our team.”
The full statement is below:
Georgia Southern University is a public school located in Statesboro, Georgia, where 41% of the population identified as African-American or Black on the 2010 census. The state of Georgia had 32.6% of its population identify as “Black or African American alone” at the 2010 census. According to Forbes Magazine, 25.8% of the school’s student-body was African-American during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Chemey said that they had not had any contact with Schaefer during the process of developing the statement.